Construction will begin next month in Seattle on a $3.7 billion, 14-mile light rail project to connect the nearby cities of Mercer Island, Bellevue and Redmond with the city’s downtown over the existing I-90 floating bridge, according to Q13 Fox.
- This is the first time a rail line will be constructed atop a floating bridge. The bridge is support by anchor cables, so it experiences motion from roadway activity on its surface as well as the water beneath it and wind and other environmental conditions that the light-rail design also must account for.
Engineers tested the design to account for changing lake and bridge conditions by building two, full-size track bridges at a transportation technology center in Colorado, where Sound Transit says it passed all the key trials. Four-car trains are expected to begin service in 2023, with an expected daily ridership of 50,000 by 2030.
More cities are looking to light rail as a way to manage congested roadways and connect urban cores with their suburbs. Similar projects, such as Charlotte, NC's light-rail extension and Boston's push for a high-speed rail line connecting the city to neighboring Springfield, MA, aim to provide a more encompassing transportation system.
One rail project that has made headlines lately is California's $63.6 billion bullet train, which would run from Sacramento and San Francisco to San Diego.However, schedule delays and cost overruns have challenged the project's progress. If it is successful, however, the project could be a model for other long-distance, high-speed rail projects that aim to grow the scope of commuter transit in the U.S.
Still, high-speed rail has struggled to get widespread adoption in the U.S. High costs and eminent domain battles have put the brakes on such plans in Minnesota and Texas, for example. And though light-rail service could help take the pressure off of gridlocked highways, a general cultural reliance on personal vehicles among U.S. residents has made investors wary of putting money into developing new, alternative transportation services.